All three designers suggest using a muted palette of grays, browns and black. Brooks suggests spray-painting pumpkins glossy gray to create a glamorous centerpiece.
Use orange only as an accent, Flynn says, perhaps adding a few orange napkins to an otherwise black and gray table setting.
You can also create a dramatic scene by spray-painting empty wine bottles in a matte black, he says, then replacing the labels with your own creations: Using scrapbooking labels or card stock and a Sharpie, come up with creepy names for the liquids supposedly in the bottles.
Flynn also suggests buying inexpensive wooden birdhouses or cheap Christmas village houses, then spraying them with dark gray or black paint to create a mini-ghost town for display on your buffet table or bar.
Take down any cheerful artwork, and replace it with old portraits from thrift shops or flea markets. Halloween stores sell deliberately creepy portraits made for this purpose, but it’s more fun to hunt down real paintings, Flynn says.
Brooks agrees that this easy decorating move can transform the feel of a room, especially if the room will be lit only by candles. (She plans to shut off her electricity entirely during a Halloween party this year, filling each room with just enough black pillar candles to provide dim, flickering light.)
Once you’ve hung your new gallery of portraits, Flynn suggests taping tiny pieces of black construction paper over the eyeballs in the pictures for a haunted mansion feel.
Flynn also recommends trolling thrift shops and flea markets for items that evoke dusty, dated Victorian style, or midcentury pieces that seem lifted from a ’60s Hitchcock movie.
Fill old apothecary jars and other glass containers with water tinted with yellow and green food coloring to suggest formaldehyde. Then drop anything — tiny plastic animals, seed pods, bits of moss — into the colorful liquid. Or create terrariums by filling glass vases with twigs, moss, and tiny plastic bugs and snakes.